Balance Sheet



Class Act. Privatization reaches the headquarters of the welfare state. D.C. School Superintendent Franklin Smith plans to turn over as many as 15 of D.C.'s 165 schools to private managers this fall. Smith also plans to convert other D.C. schools to "charter schools," freeing them from bureaucratic controls. And the District will hire a private firm to tutor high-school students who read below eighth-grade level.

Private Exchange. "Infrastructure investment" is more than a catch phrase in Eastern Europe. Baby Bell Ameritech and Germany's Deutsche Bundepost Telekom buy 30 percent of Hungary's state phone company. MagyarCom will offer fiber optics and wireless phones. Next in line for Western investment: the state phone monopolies in the Czech Republic and in Poland.

Peace Talk. In a speech before an international drug-policy conference, Colombian Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff Restrepo calls the drug war "a lost battle." Citing drug-lord profits and drug-related crimes, he says, "It is a delusion to think that jailing or killing major traffickers will [reduce the amount of] drugs" in the market. "In the end," says de Greiff, "the only solution is legalization." Joycelyn Elders, you're not alone.

Called Off. Don't worry about getting cancer from your cellular phone. (See "Fear of Phoning," June.) A study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health shows that the amount of radiation generated by cellular telephones is one-fourth the level considered safe by the American National Standards Institute. Tell your friends and family.


Bushwhacked. Forget ClintonCare–George Bush's Americans with Disabilities Act could make health care a civil right. The Department of Justice claims that the ADA makes it illegal to prevent disabled employees from tapping into pension funds. Similarly, the ADA may prevent health insurers from excluding persons with pre-existing conditions. National health insurance or trial lawyers' bonanza: You make the call.

Rate Crime. The Postal Service tries to extend its monopoly beyond first-class mail. Postal inspectors sift through the mailing records of Equifax and other corporations that use such private couriers as Federal Express. The New York Times reports the Postal Service is actually billing companies that use private carriers to send letters not deemed "urgent" by Uncle Snail.

Cable Cut. Self-described civil libertarian Sen. Paul Simon continues to test the limits of the dictionary definition of censor. He pressures TBS, HBO, Showtime, and Time Warner into rating cable shows for violence. They also agree to an outside monitor who will "review" (and edit?) violent cablecasts. Meanwhile, Simon's legislative director looks longingly north, calling Canada's censorship code "very attractive." There, broadcasters can't air "gratuitous violence" before 9 p.m. Has anyone told the NHL?

Bear Market. Al Gore and Strobe Talbott attribute the resurgence of nationalism in Russia to Boris Yeltsin's failed "shock therapy." Instead, economists Stanley Fischer, Padma Desai, and Jeffrey Sachs blame Yeltsin's half-hearted attempts to restrain inflation and create private markets. Trend spotter Peter Passell suggests that the Clintonites' faith in faceless bureacrats and their uneven support for capital formation may have exacerbated the Russian policy muddle.